System Serviceability: Managing Change in Systems Environments

The serviceability of the enterprise is based upon standardization of the environment and procedures for managing changes within each component. The primary disciplines involved in creating organizational serviceability include:

Asset/License Management

Asset management is the practice of inventorying and tracking the various hardware and software components that exist throughout a company. Asset management is required to ensure successful distribution, implementation and maintenance of any deployed hardware or software within the enterprise.

License management is the practice of tracking the various hardware and software licenses that have been acquired by a company. Tracking the licenses includes gathering information such as, the total number of licenses acquired for a particular product, the number of users that are licensed to utilize a product, and the actual expiration dates of those licenses. License management is important to ensure compliance with software license agreements and hardware lease agreements.

Both asset management and license management rely on the successful implementation and administration of the following:

  1. Tracking and reporting
  2. Resource accounting and procurement
  3. Chargeback.
Tracking and Reporting

Adequate tracking and reporting mechanisms are required to successfully administer a large base of systems hardware and software which is continually being implemented, moved, upgraded or discarded. At any given moment the following information regarding a system should be available:

  • CPU
  • Memory
  • Internal devices such as disk drives
  • Resident software
  • Location
  • Owner
  • System age.

This information is useful for both maintaining systems and providing the information necessary for resource accounting and potential chargeback.


Procurement and Resource Accounting

Successful enterprise systems management within the environment requires consistent and robust procurement and resource accounting methodologies. Procurement must be tied into a resource accounting mechanism which provides information regarding the hardware and software deployed within the enterprise.

The procurement process should rely on automated workflow, with successful acquisition of the products resulting in automatic updates to asset and inventory tracking databases used within the organization.



Chargeback procedures require individual cost centers to share the burden of systems administration by allowing the systems administration group to "chargeback" for services provided.

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Change Management

Change Management is the process by which controlled changes are made to the operating environment. It is the means by which hardware or software is added to or changed within a production environment and includes all alterations to operating systems code, production program products, utilities and system management tools.


Enforcing compliance to existing configurations is critical to change management. By preventing unexpected changes to deployed systems, control of the environment is made more manageable. Controlling the configurations requires constant monitoring of existing configurations, centrally managed changes to the existing configurations, and security to prevent unauthorized changes to configurations.


Change Management Procedures

For change management to be successful, well defined procedures are required. These procedures define required sign-offs for affected areas, lead time for changes and the mechanism by which changes are controlled.


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Problem Management

Problem Management covers the management and flow of hardware and software problems and their resolution. This includes handling incoming user problem calls and providing technical support to resolve those problems, whether they are issues for internal organizations or for vendors.

An effective problem management methodology is achieved through the following:

  • Overall quality assurance
  • Implementation of a help desk
  • Well defined escalation procedures
  • Measures of customer satisfaction.
Quality Assurance

Quality assurance (QA) is key to successful problem management, since potential problems are identified prior to production implementation. Comprehensive test plans are the key to effective and rapid quality assurance testing.


Help Desk

In the event that problems do occur within the environment, a help desk which provides centralized first level support for the user and member community is required. The help desk must provide timely, value added support for systems and applications within the environment.



Effective problem management requires escalation procedures to correct instances where initial levels of support do not provide a resolution. Escalation can be the result of two situations:

  1. Resolution is not achieved through first level support
  2. No response is obtained from the support organization

The first situation should be minimized by providing the help desk with the necessary skills and tools. The second situation is the result of a failed process and review of the procedure should be performed.


Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is the result of both minimized service interruptions and met expectations in the event of a problem. Minimized interruptions are supported by deploying robust systems and implementing automated support tools to proactively correct any problems that do occur.

An effective means of verifying customer satisfaction is through service levels. Service levels inform the customer what to expect in the event of a problem and place the support organization under measurable guidelines.


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Copyright © JJ Kuhl 2002